Long gone are the days when Petrarchan sonnets and Horatian odes were the most effective way of declaring one’s love and affection. In the modern age, strophes and antistrophes have been replaced by “likes” and LOLs. But can we really infer anything about a romantic relationship by examining its digital, public interface?
In “I Will Follow You: Making A Marriage Last In 140 Characters Or Less,” Fast Company’s David Zax declares, “To judge a couple’s status, you need to be able to read between the tweets.” He analyzes a collection of celebrity couples’ Twitter feeds to discern “What makes a marriage—be it real or fake—succeed on Twitter?”
In the case of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, who declared their intent to divorce in November, Zax points out the disintegration of the couple’s prolific Twitter conversations, from Kutcher’s playful tweeting of his wife’s derriere in March of 2009 to his announcement that “marriage is one of the most difficult things in the world and unfortunately sometimes they fail” a couple of months ago. Zax adds that “the Twitter divorce won’t be smooth: Demi’s handle is @mrskutcher.” Ouch.
Celebrity couple Katy Perry and Russell Brand has also gone from googly-eyed to grumpy on Twitter, in only a matter of months. Holding a flower to the camera, Brand tweeted “@katyperry I’m hosting my own awards (#RBMA’s) you win. See you wednesday (in LA)” in September of 2010. By the following August, when Brand announced that he had become an ordained minister and would be willing to wed couples during his stand-up appearances, Perry said “I’ll RT this out of loyalty even though I feel personally connected to the insults!” By December, the marriage was over.
In contrast to the couples on the rocks, Zax points out a few lovebirds whose tweets are still melodious: Jessica Alba and Cash Warren, Seal and Heidi Klum, Nicole Ritchie and Joel Madden.
So what’s the secret to “making a marriage last in 140 characters or less”? According to Zax, it’s playfulness. When photos of flowers and silly underwear are replaced by “retweets out of loyalty” and silence, it’s time to call it quits.
Until the next marriage comes along, of course.